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Madison-Kipp Corp.

Madison-Kipp Corp. is a century-old aluminum and zinc die cast factory located in the Atwood neighborhood of Madison, Wisc. The factory is adjacent to homes, a community center, food gardens and 200 feet from an elementary school. With abutting property lines, many houses are within 50 feet of the actual factory. Pollutants include PCBs, dioxins, PCE, TCE, vinyl chloride, heavy metals along with many greenhouse gases. Dr. Lorne G. Everett, an international hydrogeology expert who has investigated hundreds of contaminated sites worldwide, calls Kipp “one of the most contaminated sites that I’ve ever worked with.”

“Mother Nature, though wounded, begins to take care of it,” says polluter

“Mother Nature, though wounded, begins to take care of it,” says polluter

At a March 19 public presentation, the president of Madison-Kipp Corporation described various pollution remediation actions that the aluminum parts manufacturer is belatedly being forced to do by the Wisconsin DNR, as a result of decades of citizen complaints and recent lawsuits. A sparsely attended meeting at the Goodman Community Center, adjacent to Kipp, was the setting for the hour long presentation by its CEO, Tony Koblinski.

Describing the expansive Kipp PCE  pollution plume that extends underground through the Atwood neighborhood, Koblinski assured attendees that over time “Mother Nature, though wounded, begins to take care of it.”

About a dozen public officials from various state, county and city agencies sat at tables in the back, but did not speak even once during the meeting (though many of Mr. Koblinski’s statements were unsubstantiated by the evidence and/or incorrect). We have never seen a neighborhood meeting to address environmental and human health concerns completely turned over to the polluter, as was done at this meeting. Now we know what it looks like. It was very disturbing.

MEJO videotaped the event, over the objections of Koblinski who apparently has never been to a public meeting (where this is commonplace). Click the links below to watch the video, which is being presented as part of the public record regarding this ongoing saga of a loud and smelly old factory, a century of pollution, and a residential neighborhood.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

[This is the entire presentation, except for few seconds at the beginning that we missed and the times when we switched out full video cards.]
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Kipp Offers Water Utility Some Advice: Run Olbrich Well 24/7!

Kipp Offers Water Utility Some Advice: Run Olbrich Well 24/7!

In a February 26, 2014 email Madison-Kipp Corporation advised the Madison Water Utility to pump the Olbrich Well (Well 8) full-time, after the Water Utility Board asked for assurance from the Wisconsin DNR that Well 8 will not be impacted by Kipp’s contamination plume.

Apparently the Water Utility is considering using Well 8 full-time again, despite knowing that the well is very likely connected to the upper aquifer, making it highly vulnerable to the significant contamination spreading from Kipp. This information, found in Kipp’s consultant report on DNR website, flies in the face of repeated assurances from the Madison Water Utility and Kipp over the last several years that Well 8 is protected from Kipp’s contamination by the Eau Claire shale layer. See footnote for more information and a link to the report.

In the Feb. 26 email, Kipp’s consultant, at the request of Kipp CEO Tony Koblinski, asserted that “all of the data, information, and best available science indicate that Unit Well 8 will not be impacted by PCE in groundwater at the Madison Kipp site if Well 8 operates 24/7.” In support of this, among other things, Kipp claims that “the vertical extent of PCE has been delineated at the Madison Kipp site,” “is not deeper than 170 feet,” and the “the PCE plume has stabilized and is no longer expanding.”

These claims are completely unsubstantiated by evidence. The vertical and horizontal extents of the Kipp plume have never been fully delineated, as this memo describes, and communications among government officials also state. Since nobody knows how deep and wide the Kipp plume really is—because there hasn’t been enough testing— it is impossible to verify that the plume is “stabilized” and “no longer expanding.”

This raises many questions. One big one: Why would it be to Kipp’s advantage to pump Well 8 full time? We speculate on this and other questions in an upcoming post. Please send your thoughts on this to info “at”mejo.us

*************************

The Well 8 log is in the last 3 pages of this report. On p. 9 of the report, it states:

“The City of Madison drinking water source is groundwater from various sandstone bedrock formations. Municipal Unit Well 8 is the closest municipal well to the Site and is approximately 1,400 feet southeast of the Site (Figure 1). Municipal Unit Well 8 is cased to 280 feet bls, below the Eau Claire shale aquitard, and is an open bedrock well across the Mount Simon Formation from 280 to 774 feet bls (McCarthy, 1945). According to the Unit Well 8 boring log (Appendix C), dynamite shots were used in a nearby test borehole at depths of approximately 380 feet, 430 feet, 480 feet, and 530 feet to fracture the bedrock between the test and Unit Well 8 borehole to increase the specific capacity of Unit Well 8. After the boreholes were connected by fracturing the bedrock, Unit Well 8 was tested at a pumping rate of approximately 1,965 gallons per minute with 65 feet of drawdown, yielding a specific capacity of approximately 30 gallons per minute per foot of drawdown.”

The “test well” they are referring to above is not cased through the Eau Claire shale. This means it is open to the upper aquifer. Because the test well and the production well have been connected (via dynamite shots), essentially the two wells are connected. In sum, this means that Well 8 is very likely connected to the upper aquifer through the test well hole. Government officials at city, county, and state agencies have known about this for some time, but have never shared this information publicly.

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Medical researchers say brain disorders tied to industrial chemicals

Medical researchers say brain disorders tied to industrial chemicals

“Children worldwide are being exposed to unrecognized toxic chemicals that are silently eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviours, truncating future achievements and damaging societies” according to a new Lancet Neurology article. Also read more here.

In other words, toxins emitted from Kipp and other industries have significant long-term and irreversible effects on our children, our educational system, and our whole society. Here’s the abstract from the Lancet Neurology article by Dr. Grandjean and Dr. Landrigan:

“Neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and other cognitive impairments, affect millions of children worldwide, and some diagnoses seem to be increasing in frequency. Industrial chemicals that injure the developing brain are among the known causes for this rise in prevalence. In 2006, we did a systematic review and identified five industrial chemicals as developmental neurotoxicants: lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, arsenic, and toluene. Since 2006, epidemiological studies have documented six additional developmental neurotoxicants—manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene, and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers. We postulate that even more neurotoxicants remain undiscovered. To control the pandemic of developmental neurotoxicity, we propose a global prevention strategy. Untested chemicals should not be presumed to be safe to brain development, and chemicals in existing use and all new chemicals must therefore be tested for developmental neurotoxicity. To coordinate these efforts and to accelerate translation of science into prevention, we propose the urgent formation of a new international clearinghouse.”

EIGHT of the chemicals highlighted as the most damaging to the developing brain are known to be emitted from Madison Kipp Corporation and/or have been found in soils, groundwater and/or air at the site. This factory is just feet away from homes, schools, daycare centers, and a community center that focuses on programs for low income and minority children.

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High Levels of PCBs Being Excavated from Kipp’s Floors—Are Workers Protected?

High Levels of PCBs Being Excavated from Kipp’s Floors—Are Workers Protected?

(Two Kipp Workers, photo by John Hart, Madison.com). According to a recent letter  from Kipp to the DNR, Kipp has been excavating inside the factory, and finding PCBs in concrete floors hundreds of times above the residual contact levels (levels considered safe for direct contact) in some places. This is not surprising, given that up to 20,000 ppm PCBs have been found beneath the factory floor, as we reported in our previous post. All of these PCB contaminated materials are also very likely contaminated with dioxins—among the most toxic chemicals ever studied (significantly more toxic than PCBs).

This raises more questions for our “Unanswered Questions: Madison-Kipp Unbound” series: What is being done right now to protect Kipp’s non-unionized workers as these highly PCB contaminated materials are being excavated? What machines (referred to in the letter) are being installed? Who is doing the excavation? What is being done—and has been done in the past—to protect workers from the myriad toxic contaminants used at Kipp, emitted into factory air, and sloshed around on the floor? Are tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and other toxic vapors seeping into the plant from the giant contaminant plume below the floor?  Has anyone measured? What about the workers who clean Kipp? Are they and other workers aware of the polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other toxins in floors, walls, and air? Do they have adequate protective gear? What are Kipp Corporation and the relevant government agencies doing to assure that workers are not exposed to toxic contaminants?

Are Kipp Worker Exposures Even on Radar Screen of Government Agencies…?

Madison Kipp’s non-unionized workers—which include many minorities, as well as some ex-offenders—are among the most exposed to the factory’s toxic pollution. Kipp also hires a number of low-wage LTEs (limited term employees) during busy times, and at times employs homeless people.[1]Various companies are contracted to clean Kipp and remove wastes; cleaning Kipp and removing wastes likely involve exposures to a stew of toxic contaminants.[2]

Yet even as PCE, PCB, TCE (trichloroethylene), PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), vinyl chloride, dioxins, heavy metals, and myriad other contaminants have been measured in soils and groundwater under Kipp, and/or emitted into factory air and from stacks, local and state government agencies and elected officials apparently are not very concerned about the health and safety of the manufacturing workers at the plant. In our reviews of thousands of pages of documents and communications from local and state agencies, we have not seen anything about assessing exposures to Kipp factory workers, assuring that they are protected, or communicating with them about potential exposures in and around the plant.[3]  Even public health agencies don’t seem to be concerned about workers’ health and well-being at all—or if they are, it is not evident anywhere.

What about the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which has an office in Madison? It’s our understanding that OSHA doesn’t investigate workplace exposures unless there is a formal complaint. While OSHA has been in Kipp several times in the last 10-15 years to investigate a number of serious worker accidents, and has issued numerous citations for significant safety violations (see next story), we have found no evidence that OSHA staff have ever investigated worker exposures to PCEs, PCBs, or any of the other highly toxic contaminants found at Kipp in recent years—nor has OSHA been involved in helping to develop strategies to protect workers from harmful exposures to these contaminants .[4]

When MEJO met with four DNR managers on Jan. 29 2014, we asked whether they had ever contacted OSHA and they said “no”—but “they will.” Shouldn’t the DNR and its city/county and state health agency collaborators have contacted OSHA many years ago, especially as the enormous plume of toxic compounds was documented under the plant, with a high potential for vapor intrusion into the factory (however, see footnote #3)? Why haven’t they contacted OSHA to get guidance on assessing worker exposures and ways to best protect workers as toxic materials are excavated all around the plant? Do DNR staff have training in assessing workplace exposures to dusts and particulates, vapors, VOCs, PCBs? Are they industrial hygienists? Is the EPA, involved with the PCB portion of the Kipp investigation, assuring that workers are protected from PCB exposures?

Of course, Kipp’s non-unionized manufacturing workers are very unlikely to complain to OSHA or anyone, for a number of reasons. Most are unaware of the toxins around them and/or serious implications for their health and their children’s health (if they are women of childbearing age). Even if they are aware, they are very unlikely to complain to superiors or say anything publicly, because they do not want to jeopardize their jobs.  Not being unionized, they have no organization to protect and represent them in complaints against their employer. They are probably very grateful to have a job—any job. Some, like homeless people and ex-offenders, have few other choices.

Sadly, this scenario fits a classic pattern of environmental injustice: the most vulnerable people—also the least privileged, least likely to have the capacities and resources to protect themselves, and with fewer alternatives available to them as far as work—are ignored by government and other powers-that-be.

Why have government agencies, public officials, media, and even neighborhood groups not raised questions about the health and safety of Kipp’s workers? With jobs and economic growth currently the top priority on all sides of the political spectrum, public officials on the left and right are reluctant to do or say anything that might threaten jobs.

MEJO does not want Kipp workers to lose their means of supporting themselves and their families. But they deserve safe and healthy work that will not increase their (or their children’s) risks for serious health problems—problems that will likely create even more socioeconomic challenges for them in the future.

Again: What are Madison Kipp, responsible government agencies, and elected officials doing to assure that Kipp workers are protected from toxic exposures?

To be continued in next post…

People out there–comments, answers, questions, corrections? Please send to: info@mejo.us. THANKS!!!


[1] MEJO members know people who worked at Kipp while homeless (though they are still homeless, they no longer work there). Sadly, one said he couldn’t keep the job because he kept falling asleep at work. Another recalled sloppy practices in the plant. See the next post…

[2] MEJO members have talked to people who cleaned at Kipp and suffered health effects while there.

[3] Ironically, a recent Kipp consultant report revealed that Kipp would be assessing vapor intrusion only in the office portions of the plant. Why not the manufacturing portions? Are they concerned about Kipp’s managers and administrative staff but not the manufacturing workers, cleaning contractors, and other temporary workers?

[4] In 2011, OSHA did a very limited one-time assessment of aluminum dust.

 

 

 

 

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20,000 ppm PCBs under Kipp? No Worries ! “Just Ordinary Dirt,” says Kipp CEO

20,000 ppm PCBs under Kipp? No Worries ! “Just Ordinary Dirt,” says Kipp CEO

(Kipp’s CEO, Tony Koblinski, in Kipp’s corporate offices, photo from Madison.com)

In a June 19, 2013 letter to the Wisconsin DNR (first obtained by MEJO in January, 2014), the U.S. EPA stated that it informed Kipp in a meeting on April 10, 2013 (see powerpoint presented at that meeting here) that the PCB levels of up to 20,000 ppm found in soils under the factory are “too high to remain in place” because “unacceptably high exposure levels would exist if institutional controls and/or engineered barriers fail.”

The DNR’s non-industrial residual contact level (RCL) for PCBs—the level above which human contact is considered unsafe— is .222 ppm. In other words, the levels of PCBs found under Kipp are up to nearly 100,000 times above the level considered safe for human contact.  Apparently EPA risk assessors don’t think leaving these PCB-laden soils under the factory is an acceptable option, because if caps or barriers constructed to contain the soils fail, people could be exposed to extremely harmful levels of PCBs.

Soils behind some homes on Waubesa Street, just feet away from the PCB contamination under Kipp, were also contaminated with PCBs  above RCLs. Before there was any public awareness or discussion about this problem, Kipp quietly notified people with contaminated soils behind their homes, and quickly moved to excavate them. Neighbors observed that little to nothing was done to protect residents from PCB dust and runoff during excavation in June.  Getting rid of the evidence as fast as possible, perhaps?

Most appallingly, during excavation—well after Kipp had been notified of the PCB problem by the EPA— Kipp CEO Tony Koblinski had the gall to tell a concerned neighbor that the soil being hauled from people’s yards was “ordinary dirt.” When asked about the PCBs in the soil, he said “you don’t know that” and “I don’t know that.” Unbelievable! Watch it here.

Which brings us to….

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS 

As we described in an earlier post— the understaffed and overwhelmed DNR told MEJO they can’t be burdened with further questions from us (and may charge us $700 if we persist in asking them). We turned to Ask.com, but it didn’t have answers either. So we will turn to you—citizens, the public, anyone out there—for help with our questions.

Any answers to these questions?

What is the source of the PCBs under the Kipp plant and behind the homes on Waubesa Street?

A Kipp consultant report (see page 2) says that there was a road between the Waubesa Street homes and the factory at one time, and implies that perhaps it was coated with PCB oils and that may be the source of PCBs under the plant. If that’s the case, why did Kipp only share first this information in late 2013? Why did the DNR not post the report with this information on the Kipp website until months after it was released, and only after MEJO found it in the DNR files and asked that it be posted (in Dec. 2013)?

Why did DNR tell MEJO on Dec. 4, 2013 that “the source of the PCBs is unknown”—when the Kipp consultant report with the statement about the road was submitted to the DNR on Sept. 30, 2013? Do Kipp and the DNR not want the public to know about this old road? Why not?

When did Kipp first do PCB testing under the factory? How many samples were taken? Where exactly?

What is the range of PCB levels being found beneath the factory? When did the DNR and health agencies first see PCB data from under the factory?

Before being taken away to a landfill, PCB contaminated soils were stored on the north side of the Kipp parking lot for various periods of time. Were signs posted there to keep children away? Did Kipp comply with regulations (NR 714) regarding signage at contaminated sites?

Were adequate barriers placed over/around the piles of contaminated soils to prevent dust from flying up and runoff from going into the storm drains, gutters, and the nearby raingarden (found to be very contaminated with PCBs in 2012)?

Why was there no public meeting to discuss these important PCB results, with serious implications for the neighborhood, the broader community, and the City of Madison?

Why did DNR staff intentionally withhold this information from a journalist who contacted them with questions about the PCB excavations in May 2013?

The DNR told us they are meeting with SASYNA regularly. Have they discussed the PCB levels under the plant with them?  If not, why not? If so, why hasn’t SASYNA shared it more widely with the community?

Were neighbors on Waubesa Street ever notified of high levels of PCBs under the plant feet from their homes—and the future implications they could have for them? (e.g., more digging behind their homes, potential exposures for them and their children, etc.)?

What is the status of the PCB testing under Kipp currently? Will the public ever see the full results?

What is Kipp planning to do about the PCBs under their plant?

What about Kipp’s non-unionized workers? Is anyone assessing their exposures to PCBs and the many other toxic compounds being found in and under the plant? (See upcoming posts)

People out there—any thoughts? Further questions to add? Please send them to info@mejo.us

 

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DNR Too Busy to Answer Questions About Madison-Kipp. Can Anyone Out There Help?

DNR Too Busy to Answer Questions About Madison-Kipp. Can Anyone Out There Help?

For several years, MEJO has been asking the Wisconsin DNR questions related to Madison-Kipp Corporation’s toxic pollution. Last December, Remediation and Redevelopment staff threatened us with a $700 fee to ask further questions—citing this policy. The DNR email message and our response are here.

On January 29, 2014, we met with South Central Region Bureau Director Mark Aquino and three of his staff to discuss their rationale for applying this policy— clearly intended for industries and facilities that have released toxic pollution—to citizens asking questions about the effects of this pollution on people and the environment.

They explained that the DNR is too busy to answer further questions. They have much more important work to do. They reminded us that we can review online and hard copy files any time to search for answers to our questions. Here is a partial transcript of what they said.

Given this, we appreciate the generosity of DNR to allow four agency managers to take an hour and a half to meet with us free of charge. This probably cost taxpayers about $300, so the DNR could have raised $400 ($700 technical assistance fee minus $300 actual costs) to reduce the state’s debt—but they didn’t; we’ll be eternally grateful). But we have learned that these public servants do not want to be burdened by further questions about Kipp.

This leaves us with a problem. Many of our questions have never been answered. New questions are arising all the time as monitoring data is released and we review documents. We have reviewed thousands of pages of documents and still not found answers. We have spent entire days going through jumbled, unorganized files at state and local government offices looking for information or documents we never found. Some critical documents—that we know exist—don’t seem to be in the files at all. Others seem to have disappeared from the files over time—we saw them once, they were gone the next time.  Aquino assured us that these files were the “official repository,” so the disorganization of the files, and ease by which documents come and go, are disconcerting.

Further, many of our most important questions cannot be answered by reviewing documents; we need answers from actual people—in particular, government agency staff who make decisions related to Kipp pollution.

But rather than further burden the understaffed and overwhelmed DNR, we have decided to try other strategies to address our questions. We turned to Ask.com, but it didn’t have answers either.* So we will turn to you—citizens, the public, anyone out there—for help with our questions. We are launching a new series, “Unanswered Questions: Madison-Kipp Unbound—How a Polluter Gets Its Way” in which we will post questions that we would have sent to DNR and other government agencies—or have sent them in the past but not received adequate (or any) answers. We hope someone out there can help us!

Watch for Part 1 of “Unanswered Questions,” coming soon….

 

*Ask.com directs you the DNR Brownfields web pages for Kipp, which don’t have the answers, of course.

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DNR Now Charging $700 to Answer Questions?

DNR Now Charging $700 to Answer Questions?

The DNR just doesn’t like to answer questions about Madison-Kipp Corp. MEJO has experienced the art of the “non-answer” answer from DNR for years, but now it has gotten to the point where DNR not only won’t answer questions, they want to charge $700 if we bother them again with questions.

 

——– Original Message ——–

Subject:

Re: followup questions re Kipp

Date:

Thu, 05 Dec 2013 11:44:26 -0600

From:

Maria Powell (MEJO) <mariapowell@mejo.us>

To:

Hanefeld, Linda S – DNR <Linda.Hanefeld@wisconsin.gov>, Schmoller, Michael R – DNR <Michael.Schmoller@wisconsin.gov>, JHausbeck@publichealthmdc.com <JHausbeck@publichealthmdc.com>, Nehls-Lowe, Henry L – DHS <Henry.NehlsLowe@dhs.wisconsin.gov>, Walsh, Patrick – LEGIS <Patrick.Walsh@legis.wisconsin.gov>, Rep.Taylor@legis.wisconsin.gov <Rep.Taylor@legis.wisconsin.gov>, Rummel, Marsha <district6@cityofmadison.com>

CC:

Weihemuller, Wendy – DNR <Wendy.Weihemuller@wisconsin.gov>, Giesfeldt, Mark F – DNR <Mark.Giesfeldt@wisconsin.gov>, Aquino, Mark D – DNR <Mark.Aquino@wisconsin.gov>, Miller, Mark <Mark.Miller@legis.wisconsin.gov>, Rep.Sargent@legis.wisconsin.gov

Linda:

Thanks for the responses. Unfortunately, most of your answers are evasive or so vague they are meaningless. We have indeed asked some of these questions before, but some were never answered and/or answers were vague. They were not detailed technical answers. We are of course aware of the documents on the DNR website; we have read most of them and they do not fully or adequately address our questions–in fact, documents posted there raised these questions in the first place.

Now, you seem to be telling us at the end of the email below that we have to pay the DNR $700 if we want any further responses to our questions (presumably this is what you mean by “additional technical assistance”).  This is the first time in my decades of environmental work I have heard of citizens being asked to pay huge fees to government agencies just for answering questions. Is this part of the DNR’s new “customer service” approach?

Are Madison Kipp Corporation and other industries also required to pay DNR $700 every time they want “technical assistance” from the agency? We know Madison Kipp representatives have been at the table for years with the DNR and other state agencies discussing legal, regulatory and technical issues and collectively making decisions–including  throughout the recent lawsuits. Do they pay for this “customer service,” or “technical assistance”? If I and other citizens want to meet with you in person to discuss our questions, can we do so? Do we have to pay a fee for that?

Please clarify. Hopefully, you will do so without us paying you several hundred dollars first. We’d like to better understand our roles as citizen “customers” of our government public servants.

Maria

On 12/4/2013 3:46 PM, Hanefeld, Linda S – DNR wrote:

Greetings, Maria,

 My responses are included in your text below.

 Linda

From: Maria Powell (MEJO) [mailto:mariapowell@mejo.us] Sent: Friday, November 22, 2013 9:27 AM
To: Hanefeld, Linda S – DNR; Schmoller, Michael R – DNR; JHausbeck@publichealthmdc.com; Nehls-Lowe, Henry L – DHS; Walsh, Patrick – LEGIS; Rep.Taylor@legis.wisconsin.gov; Rummel, Marsha
Subject: Re: followup questions re Kipp

Hello:

Will anyone be able to address the questions below? Please let me know.

Thanks,
Maria

On 11/14/2013 12:25 PM, Maria Powell (MEJO) wrote:

Linda et al:

We have now read through a few more of the Kipp documents released on Nov. 2, and we have some follow-up questions:

-Has Kipp provided the “updated conceptual site model” that DNR asked for by Sept. 30 in the June DNR letter? If so, can we access it? We have been asking for Kipp’s CSM for two years.

Kipp has provided information about their site conceptual model in several documents.  The complete file is available for review at the South Central Regional Headquarters building at 3911 Fish Hatchery Road, Fitchburg.  Please contact Wendy Weihemuller (608-275-3212) to schedule a review time if needed.

-As you know, EPA guidances recommend evaluation of the vapor intrusion pathway at buildings located within 100 feet laterally or vertically from a subsurface VOC source “of potential concern.” Based on the most recent data, does Goodman Center still not meet these criteria?

The Department has answered this question in previous correspondence.   The DNR has concluded that vapor issues for the neighborhood have been adequately investigated/addressed.  Please use the link below to access the document summarizing vapor sampling results for the Kipp neighborhood.

http://dnr.wi.gov/files/PDF/pubs/rr/RR931.pdf

-What is the rationale for the location of the water table well on the Goodman property?

To define the extent of groundwater contamination at the water table in that direction.

-What is/are the source(s) of the PCBs on the Waubesa side of Kipp?

The “source” of PCBs is unknown, although DNR believes activities at Kipp have contributed to the PCB contamination there.

-Why is indoor air sampling only being done in the office portions of MKC, and not the rest of the plant?

DNR is determining whether the is the potential for vapor intrusion issues at the facility. The office portion of the facility seems like a logical place to start.

-Has any groundwater testing directly to the south of Kipp been ruled out? If so, on what basis?

 Based on the data collected to date, we feel we know enough about groundwater in that direction.

Also, the June letter asked Kipp to conduct soil sampling for VOCs and PCBs in the raingarden. Yet Arcadis had already tested the raingarden area on 6/21/12, and data from one boring done then was included in the raingarden document released on Nov. 2. Was the DNR not aware of this data when they wrote the June letter? Or is the DNR asking for further testing beyond what was done in June  2012? Please clarify.

The DNR was aware of the June 2012 data.  Additional sampling was required to determine nature/extent of that contamination.

We will probably have more questions once we have read through all the documents in more detail.

If you find you need additional technical assistance, please be aware that there is a $700 fee for any requests for detailed responses similar to those you have been receiving (see chapter NR749, Wisconsin Administrative Code, for more details:  https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/code/admin_code/nr/700/749.pdf  ).  DNR has made many documents regarding this case available both on-line at:  http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/Brownfields/kipp.html  , and at the local library.  As mentioned above, the complete file can be reviewed by appointment.

Thanks in advance for your responses,

Maria

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PCEs with your Pie, Anyone? Toxic Plume Under Goodman Center Still Ignored…

PCEs with your Pie, Anyone? Toxic Plume Under Goodman Center Still Ignored…

A couple weeks ago, I had lunch with a friend in the Ironworks Café at the Goodman Community Center. The food was delicious and the servers were helpful and friendly.  Pre-school age children were laughing and playing in the playground. Teenage kids were taking plants from the raised-bed gardens just outside the café to the compost pile. We agreed that Goodman’s gardening and food service programs for teens, and other programs for children, are impressive and commendable.

But while munching on my sandwich, I remembered that the highest levels of PCE found on the Goodman property before redevelopment (in 2001) were in soils just a few feet outside my window, under the outdoor cafe. PCE over the enforcement standard level was also found in the groundwater below where the outdoor café is now. It’s not clear how deep this contamination was at the time.

In April 2013, Madison-Kipp Corp. consultants released a map of a huge plume of much higher levels of PCE and other volatile organic compound (VOC) contamination beneath the Goodman property. Given that the highest levels of groundwater contamination at Madison-Kipp are at the northern part of the property, just across the bike path from the center (a few feet from the raised bed gardens), this is not surprising.

The top layers of contaminated soils at Goodman were removed and replaced before the center was opened, but the contaminated groundwater is still there. What levels of PCE and other VOCs are beneath the center now? How far below? Is the plume releasing toxic vapors into the Goodman Center? Nobody knows.

And apparently, nobody wants to know. This month the DNR released documents showing that the agency is finally asking Kipp to sink a shallow well on the Goodman property. But why will this well be located way out in the parking lot area? Toxic vapors released from any shallow groundwater contamination there will mostly dissipate in outdoor air. Whether contamination is or isn’t found there, this will not tell us much about exposures to people inside the Goodman Center. If there are PCEs and other toxic VOCs in shallow groundwater beneath the center, vapors released from this water will likely concentrate beneath the center—and then seep up into the building. Testing way out in the parking lot will tell us little to nothing about exposures to people in the center.

Yet again, we ask: Why are potential toxic exposures to the most vulnerable people—children and seniors in the Goodman Center—being ignored? Why have our questions about these potential exposures been repeatedly ignored or dismissed (and at times even ridiculed) by public health officials and Goodman leaders? Since the significant and widespread PCE and PCB contamination at Kipp was uncovered in 2011-2012, to our knowledge not even a single test has been done at Goodman to see if children there are exposed to Kipp’s contaminants in soil, groundwater, and/or air. Why not?

Perhaps neither Madison-Kipp nor Goodman leaders want to open up this politically messy can of worms—especially since they have been in bed together for years. Madison-Kipp has supported Goodman in a variety of ways, financial and otherwise, since the center’s inception. A year before the center opened, in a May 2007 letter to the Madison Planning Commission, CEO Reed Coleman bragged that “Madison-Kipp is a proud supporter of the new Goodman Atwood community center. What an asset it will be to the entire east side. Madison-Kipp is committed to helping with the success of the new center and have lent our support in numerous ways…” (Ironically, he then goes on to offer parking in the Kipp lot, which we now know was coated in PCBs for years, for Goodman Center users).

While things seem to have been cozy historically between Madison-Kipp and Goodman, opening up the can of worms related to Kipp’s toxic contamination plume under Goodman could turn very ugly, with former bedfellows quickly becoming enemies. Though Goodman closure documents explicitly state that Kipp is the source of the PCEs in the groundwater under the Goodman property, if this issue was opened up again, Kipp would likely blame past industrial activities on the Goodman property (e.g., Kupfer Ironworks). In a March 2012 email to the DNR and other public officials, Kipp attorney David Crass resisted DNR’s request that soil vapor probes be placed on the bike path north of the Kipp property,[1] noting that “…historic PCE use has been documented at the Goodman Center property, which will lead to questions regarding origins of any results and will infect any future decisionmaking regarding the results.”

Hmmm. So maybe it’s to both Goodman’s and Madison-Kipp’s benefit to stay mum and resist testing, and deny any public health risks at Goodman—regardless of the source of the pollution—rather than face the uncomfortable prospect of intense political, legal, and financial battles with former bedfellows?  In a twisted way, perhaps Kipp and Goodman are protecting each other?

What about government officials? Why are they so adamantly declaring that there are no exposures whatsoever in the center, though there haven’t been any tests? It seems they are either woefully unaware of the current scientific research and EPA guidances on PCE vapor intrusion (which indicate that vapor intrusion should be investigated in the Goodman building), or they are totally ignoring them. Of course, they approved the re-development of the Goodman Center in 2008 apparently without considering vapor intrusion, even though extremely high levels of PCE and other VOCs had already been well documented on the northern part of the Kipp property (just feet away from the Goodman building) beginning in 1994. If tests now were to show that vapors from the plume under Goodman are leaking into the center (and/or that children there are exposed to other toxic contamination from Kipp), blame for the lack of oversight that led to these exposures would be directed at them. Maybe not testing at all is way to avoid this uncomfortable situation?

So if our suspicions are correct, Madison-Kipp, Goodman leaders, and government officials alike are, ironically, protecting each other (intentionally or not) by putting their concerns about politics, money, and reputations above assessing risks to children and seniors, who apparently don’t matter in their political games. How unethical is this?

Note to readers: We would love for our speculations above to be wrong. If anyone out there wants to disagree—or better yet, send information disproving anything said above—please do so! Email info@mejo.us



[1] Vapor probes were eventually placed along the south edge of the bike path and results from 3/30/12 and 10/26/12 showed concerning levels of PCE and several of its breakdown products at the probe right across from the circle gathering area at Goodman. If these levels were under a building, they would likely be a problem as far as vapor intrusion inside the center. But it seems nobody will test inside—or even anywhere near—the center.

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Oops!!! Maybe a Raingarden for Kipp’s Toxic Runoff Wasn’t a Good Idea After All?

Oops!!! Maybe a Raingarden for Kipp’s Toxic Runoff  Wasn’t a Good Idea After All?

 

 Children Creating Kipp Raingarden in 2006–Mucking Around in Kipp’s PCBs! Original Photo Caption from the 2006 Rock River Newsletter: Whitehorse Middle School science students seemed to enjoy rolling up their shirtsleeves and  pants legs to plant more than 2,000 of the 3,200 plants at the Friends of Starkweather Creek rain garden at Kipp and the bike path in Madison. A casualty of the muck: one pair of a student’s flip-flops and one of Susan Priebe’s pink “Crocs.” For photos and more information, see: http://www.rockrivercoalition.org/publications/newsletters/RRCfall2006c.pdf

 

In an October 9, 2013 letter, Wisconsin DNR and City of Madison asked Madison Kipp Corporation to remove contaminated soil from the raingarden built next to MKC on city property in 2006 by Whitehorse Middle School students and teachers (in the photo above) along with many other volunteers. Soil tests done by Kipp consultants in the raingarden in June 2012 showed polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) levels above the residential and industrial “direct contact” residual contaminant levels (RCLs); in other words, direct physical contact with this soil should be avoided.[1]

We commend the DNR and City for finally asking Kipp to excavate this contaminated soil. But why did they wait over a year after Kipp consultants tested soils in the garden area share this data with the public and ask Kipp to excavate? Also, recently posted documents don’t tell the whole story. Kipp consultant documents posted by the DNR on Nov. 1 selectively highlight results from only one soil boring, not reporting results from borings just a few feet away showing much higher levels of PCBs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). For instance, one shallow boring on the edge of the raingarden, not reported in recent documents, had total detected PCB levels of 45 ppm— significantly higher than the residential RCL (.222 ppm) and the industrial RCL (.744 ppm). The levels reported from just one boring were much lower (.82 and 2.5 ppm), though still higher than the RCLs.

Documents also don’t mention that all soil tests in the raingarden area showed that tetrachloroethyene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE), 1, 1,-dichloroethene, carbon tetrachloride and vinyl chloride were much higher than the “soil to groundwater pathway” residual contaminant levels (also called RCLs). In other words, these chemicals in the soils pose risks to groundwater, which is very shallow in the raingarden area—only 10 or less feet below the surface. This is more than a little ironic, given that the purpose of the raingarden is to encourage contaminants to filter downward.[2]

Further, in all raingarden soil samples, arsenic levels were much higher than residential, industrial, and groundwater RCLs. Kipp consultant documents dismiss this, noting that “The presence of arsenic in the rain garden appears to represent naturally occurring background conditions.” Whether or not all of this arsenic is “naturally occurring,” arsenic is still very toxic to humans and in many places is becoming a significant problem in groundwater. Given this, why are these levels being dismissed? Why is there so much arsenic, natural or not (likely both) everywhere in surface soils? Metal smelting (which is what Kipp does) is known to produce arsenic, but that couldn’t possibly have added any arsenic to the soils next to the plant, right? Why isn’t anyone even asking this question?

Sadly, regardless of these findings, public health officials are dismissing or ignoring obvious human exposures to these soils in disingenuous (if not absurd) ways. When we raised questions about exposures to children who created this raingarden, in an October 2012 article, public health officials ridiculed us as “alarmist” and “wrong,” even though by that point raingarden soil tests (not shared publicly yet) had already verified that the area was quite contaminated. More recently, in a Nov. 5 Wisconsin State Journal article, John Hausbeck from the Madison Dane County Public Health Department assured us that “Those using the bike path generally would not be exposed to what’s going on in the ditch” (no duh! as if that is what people are concerned about…). But he said nothing at all about exposures to the children who created the raingarden—and people who have maintained the garden since 2006.

Were the children and adults working in close contact with this soil aware of the contamination, so they could take precautions (gloves, boots, etc) as any workers who will now excavate the soil are expected to?[3] Based on the photo above, no. Would parents of the children who helped create the garden let them work there had they known about the contamination? We doubt it.

This sad situation raises many questions about why city, county, and state government officials allowed this raingarden there in the first place—and why the neighborhood so enthusiastically supported it.[4]

The raingarden project was funded by a Dane County Water Quality Initiative Grant and coordinated by the Rock River Coalition, and was lauded by the neighborhood, government agencies, and Mayor Cieslewicz. Project partners included SASYNA, City of Madison, Madison Kipp Corporation, Madison Gas and Electric Co., AtwoodCommunity Center, Glass Nickel Pizza and Whitehorse Middle School. It was created explicitly to address runoff from MKC and to protect Starkweather Creek. According to the Rock River Newsletter (link above) about the project, Whitehorse students and volunteers “helped plant, apply weed barrier, and mulch. The rain garden will help capture stormwater runoff coming from the Kipp parking lot…and protect a fen-like area around Starkweather Creek (emphasis added).

We think raingardens are great, and we commend efforts to protect Starkweather Creek from further pollution. By 2006 the creek had already been polluted for over 100 years by Kipp, Rayovac (now gone), numerous other industries, the airport and widespread non-point urban runoff (in the 1990s, a huge quantity of PCB and metal-contaminated sediment was dredged from the creek). But was a raingarden the appropriate (or ethical) way to deal with highly contaminated runoff from Madison Kipp (or any heavy industry), given what was known at that point? By 2006, Kipp and DNR documents dating back to the 1990s showed that contaminated runoff from the most toxic hotspots at the Kipp factory went for decades into a drainage ditch that emptied into the rain garden area. Kipp officials, of course, also knew that they had used PCBs for decades on the parking lot next to the raingarden area—the same parking lot the raingarden was supposed to capture runoff from.[5]

Why would anyone think a raingarden is a good way to deal with toxic runoff from MKC? Even more troublingly, why would anyone think that having children build such a garden in that location is OK? At the least, why didn’t agencies involved have the soil tested before the raingarden was created?[6]

Unfortunately, this situation reflects the ongoing denial among government agency officials, including the ones responsible for protecting public health, that there could be any actual exposures to toxins among people around Kipp, and especially to the most vulnerable—children. While Kipp consultants continue to measure high levels of very toxic contaminants on and around the Kipp property, no matter what the results, officials deny that anyone is (or was ever) exposed, despite abundant and obvious evidence to the contrary. They marginalize and discount anyone who even raises questions about possible exposures as “alarmist.” Why?


[1] When the garden was built, 2-4 feet of soil were excavated and backfilled with “new” soil (consisting of sand, compost, and topsoil). It is highly likely that the original soil excavated was much more contaminated than the backfill, given that this area was the recipient of decades of toxic runoff from the Kipp property. However, the 2012 tests suggest that the fill may have been contaminated as well and/or that Kipp runoff since 2006 contaminated it (or both). Where did the original soil go? Where did the fill soil com from?

[2] Ironically, the consultant for the city (CGC, Inc.) that did the original analysis of this site concluded that “Based on the relatively thick layer of low permeability clay encountered in the borings, this site does not appear suitable to infiltrate significant quantities of rainwater.”

[3] Kipp’s consultant documents state that “If any soil is excavated below grade…personnel shall wear appropriate personal protective equipment to limit exposure to the contaminants…” (August 2013, ARCADIS Materials Handling Plan).

[4] MEJO leaders questioned garden proponents about the safety, efficacy, and ethics of this garden in 2005-6, but were ignored.

[5] The soil removed to create the raingarden was likely much more contaminated than the soil that replaced it. DNR claimed not to have known about the use of PCBs on the parking lot till 2012; this may be true, but they would have at least known about the possibility that PCBs were used on the parking lot had they read documents Kipp consultants submitted to them. Regardless, the agency certainly knew about all the other toxic contaminants found throughout the Kipp property and the drainage ditch that for decades emptied into the raingarden area. MKC’s enthusiastic support for the raingarden project raises even more troubling questions. Did MKC, perhaps, support the raingarden project in part because they wanted the soil there to be excavated to remove highly contaminated soil they knew would be there?

[6] The consultants who did the soil boring for this project (CGC, Inc., subcontracted to Kitson Environmental Services) noted that they had not screened for environmental contaminants because they had not been asked to by the City. Their disclaimer section read: “Unanticipated environmental problems have led to numerous project failures (emphasis in original). If you have not yet obtained your own geoenvironmental information, ask your geotechnical consultant for risk management guidance. Do not rely on an environmental report prepared for someone else.” But apparently the City never did any soil contaminant testing or asked for any advice on “risk management” from their consultant.

 

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Kipp Settles Lawsuit, Silences Neighbors with Money, and Denies Responsibility

Kipp Settles Lawsuit, Silences Neighbors with Money, and Denies Responsibility

 

The class action lawsuit against Madison-Kipp Corporation (MKC) was approved in U.S. District Court on Oct. 28 in a hearing that lasted a few minutes. The judge, lawyers, and two neighbors who represented the class said they were very pleased with the settlement, in which each class member will receive an average of $80,000. The judge, who said she received a letter from the DNR commending the settlement, asked no questions at all. The mood was pleasant and congratulatory. No doubt, champagne bottles were popped on all sides after this short hearing.

Should we all breathe easy now that the truth has been told and justice served? Far from it. In the settlement document, Kipp denies all lawsuit allegations—in other words, claims it didn’t cause the pollution or any related environmental or health problems. Ironically, Kipp also agrees to do what the DNR and EPA ask “to address environmental conditions at and migrating from the facility” (wait, didn’t Kipp deny causing the pollution?) but only “while fully and expressly reserving any and all rights to challenge, appeal, object to, or litigate any decision by WDNR or USEPA…”

In sum, Kipp denies causing pollution while admitting it, and agrees to do what DNR and EPA asks—well, unless they object to it. Apparently, our DNR thinks this dishonest doublespeak is A-OK.

Perhaps most troubling, the settlement money comes with a steep moral price for class lawsuit members who didn’t opt out:  silence about Kipp’s pollution, silence about what they believe, silence about the truth. It’s hush money. To get their money, class members had to agree that “they have not been diagnosed with, are not aware of, and do not have any symptoms that they suspect could be associated with any sickness, disease, or physical injury which may have been caused to them by the action or inaction” of Kipp. The settlement also includes a stipulation that class members “will not make any statements or representations relating to the claims and allegations asserted in the lawsuit, or direct any other Person to make any statements or representations relating to the claims and allegations asserted in the lawsuit, that disparage or otherwise impair the reputation, goodwill, or commercial interest of any other party hereto or their respective counsel.”

What wheeling, dealing, and political pressure went on behind the scenes among Kipp, DNR, and lawyers on both sides to come up with this duplicitous agreement? We’ll never know.

Do all the class members really not believe they have any health problems caused by Kipp’s pollution? Or not even suspect they have health problems that might be associated with it? Of course not. Several people in the class lawsuit have serious health problems, including cancer, that they believe are associated with Kipp’s pollution. Some suspect birth defects in the neighborhood over the years were connected to Kipp’s pollution. Others have mentioned neighbors who already died, they think, from Kipp’s pollution.

So why did they sign this agreement? Some don’t seem to understand what they agreed to. Regardless, they want this stressful Kipp fiasco to be over so they can move on with their lives. They all need the money. It’s very understandable. They certainly deserve money for their years of exposures to Kipp’s toxic pollution—though no amount of money can really compensate for this.

Remarkably, just one neighbor—one who needs the money just as much as others, if not more—had the courage and integrity to opt-out of the class lawsuit, foregoing the settlement money entirely, in order to continue speaking the truth about Kipp’s pollution and health problems without fear of retribution from Kipp. This person put truth and honesty before money.

Despite the lawsuit, Kipp’s huge plume of highly toxic contaminants continues to spread beneath the neighborhood towards the aquifer and the lakes. The factory’s air stacks continue to spew pollution into the neighborhood and beyond. All citizens will be paying for Kipp’s pollution indefinitely—with our dollars, our health, and the health of wildlife and the environment. Our children and grandchildren will be paying for it. We need as many courageous people as possible to continue speaking out publicly about this.

So, THANK YOU to the incredible, courageous person who opted out of the Kipp lawsuit!

 

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